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October 29, 2007

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mk

good lord that's a long list

Niall Cook

Chris,

Interesting that you chose to publish all those email addresses for the spam harvesters to pick up.

Are you sure you definitely got those emails direct, or is your email address on a media distribution list somewhere that these people might subscribe to?

Didier DURAND

Hi,

Is the side effect of the publication of this list wanted? i.e those addresses will get collected by bots and then may have a hard time - if not well equipped - with spams in coming times... ;-)

Sami

That's priceless, thanks for sharing the experience :) Maybe this will, to some small extent, teach some of the people on the list to regain some of the obviously long lost respect for using e-mail.

E-mail is a wonderful tool when used correctly and even clear-cut spam is manageable with good tools but it's exactly the kind of "legal" spam that you mention that has substantially degraded the usefulness of the entire communication channel - a pretty sad situation.

Dan

So, I'm on this list. dan at onewordphotography.com. I'm a freelance photographer in Canada and I shoot a lot of travel stock. I have your email address and 7000 others by buying a list of what they call "image buyers" from a company called Agency Access. They tell me they get these lists by compiling them from questionnaires etc at trade shows and industry events.

Now, over the years, I have tried calling many of my intended targets but, when your market is magazine and book publishers all over the world and you have 7 to 10000 potential targets this can get expensive and impossibly time consuming. As well, the vast majority of creative buyers don't even bother returning your phone call. I've tried individual emails which gets an even lower response. So, I started sending out stock list updates via a mass emailing and the response has been nothing short of phenomenal. Yes, I do get requests to be taken off the list and there is a clear "unsubscribe" link at the bottom of every email but, only about 3% use it. I've also had potential buyers call me, tell me my work is great, ask to be taken off the list and put on the postcard only list. Others have called after receiving a promotional card and requested email only. The bottom line is, as a single entity operating a creative business, marketing to potential buyers is necessary, time consuming, expensive and difficult to do on an individual basis. As well, when the "broad brush" (okay, I'll call it spam) approach works as well as it does for me, it makes sense to keep doing it.

I spent $10,000 this year on lists, email software, promotional cards etc. to promote my business and my work. You're on a list of people who buy creative work that is sold to photographers every day. If you don't really buy photography, why not just hit the unsubscribe button? Why give out your email? I get about 150 emails a day and travel 200+ days a year which makes it very difficult to get back to everyone after sorting through the spam I get but, it's an unfortunate part of the business and I unsubscribe to stuff that does not appeal to me. Interestingly Amazon (since I order books online) spams me about 4 time as week but, I don't unsubscribe because 1 out of 10 times, it's something I'm interested in and I place an order.

Anyway, I'd certainly appreciate it if you'd take my name of this list (even though it will actually drive more traffic to my site) and if you did not hit the unsubscribe button last time, feel free to do so next time and you're automatically off the list. I am sorry if I've inconvenienced you but, I hope you understand that the vast majority of people who receive this are perfectly targeted and appreciate being informed of new work (or they wouldn't place orders for stock and prints).

Dan Bannister

Duane B

Dan, you just hit the nail on the head. You just admitted to taking the lazy way out of everything and spam people. If you are spending that kind of money you should be checking to see if the list(s) you are getting is even of value and not have people like Chris on it. Now Wired may buy your stock, but you shouldn't or wouldn't be talking to Chris about that. It would be someone in his art department or operations even. if anything he should keep you on the list, so you learn not to do this, much like everyone else on the list. We all work hard to do our own jobs, so traveling 200+ days a year isn't a reason to spam people. Plus with the way mobile traveling has evolved, which wired has covered before. You should be able to check your e-mail on the go. Even if using satellites connection for the internet.

Chris, sorry about this happening. As a person who does PR/Ads, this is one reason I keep a tight list of people I e-mail and ask before I put them new ones on my list, which included people at Wired. Some PR people really need to step up their game and not spam people.

Kevin M

Publishing the emails on the site so that spam bots can collect them is a childish response. You’ve now traded sympathy over unsolicited PR emails for scorn at aiding and abetting spammers. It concerns me further that Mr. Bannister’s comment points out that your manner of identifying PR folks is flawed.

You’re now part of a problem instead of a solution.

I wish could sign my full name, but, as a PR person, I'm afraid I may blacklisted as well.

Chris Anderson

Dan,

Thanks for the comment, which is heartfelt and appreciated. Two quick answers:

--You asked why I gave out my email address to the company that says "they compile them from questionnaires etc at trade shows and industry events." You can guess the answer. I did no such thing. They must have harvested my address from some PR list.

--You asked why I don't just hit unsubscribe. It's because the entire unsubscribe process is broken. In the case of spam, it just confirms that you're a live email address, which doubles the amount of spam you'll get. Even in legitamate cases, hitting unsubscribe usually tries to remove the email address you're responding from. The problem is that I'm usually on my iPhone or on my laptop at home or on the road, and the email has been forwarded to one of my traveling addresses. When I respond from that, the unsubscribe process doesn't work.

Every now and then someone constructs their unsubscribe process right, with a link that includes the address to be removed and no stupid web process to go through. But why should I spend all my time trying to navigate these things on the hopes of finding one that works when I didn't ask for it in the first place? It's so much easier just to hit the "block sender" button.

Sorry to be blunt, but I wanted you to see it from my perspective. You're just one person and I understand the problems in trying to navigate organizations such as mine (send me a personal email and I'll tell you the right people to contact), but I'm getting scores of such emails a day.

Terry

I agree there needs to be a more controlled outreach method but what is interesting me is all the newsletter emails and publication adresses. Looks like you subscribed to a couple (like dealmaker) and are continuing to get news from them.

That being said I don't think this is fair and should be taken down. You actually look childish.

Glenn Fleishman

Chris, I'm with you here. Due to some unethical firms that work with PR companies, I'm on a list of press people who apparently want their inboxes crowded with crap on off-topic pitches. The laziest PR firms and people use these lists, which rarely result in any stories or good results because we're all too pissed off about having to read what looks like an earnest targeted message.

I have some great PR contacts at many companies who work with me to get me to the right people, get products for review, etc. Great PR people don't affect my judgment about a product or service, but they do make sure the company has a chance to give me all the information they have at their disposal. (In some cases, great PR people ensure the company isn't embarrassed when I discover showstopper bugs or security problems before or after release.)

I contacted one of these firms that sells these lists of journalists for a lot of money to PR companies, and they have NO way for a journalist to remove himself or herself from their list.

So what I do now is tell PR folk who I don't need to hear from precisely what my coverage area is, and ask them where they got my email. If it's from a firm, I explain that the firm is engaged in marketing a deceptive product if they're pretending that I chose to receive email on their area of interest.

Frank Fortin

What payback! Excellent.
This reminds me of a testy exchange I had recently with a person at a local (Boston-area) PR firm. She was insulted when I told her she no right to send me news releases without an unsubscribe link.
Worse, her client is in banking, and we're a health care publisher. (Relevance? What's that?)
She also clueless to the notion that the more she protested, the bigger the hole she was digging for herself and her client.
As a last resort, I ratted her out directly to her client. The e-mails stopped.

CC

Great post and excellent points. As a PR/communications professional, I echo your concerns. Unfortunately, too many companies who want to do PR take the easy way out buying lists as mentioned above. Even worse, some of the top PR houses in the country designate "media research" to the most junior of account executives or interns who may lack the basic analytical and research skills to thoroughly read/evaluate a media outlet. I hope the people you block learn a valuable lesson about doing their research ahead of time. If we have the time to craft the perfect pitch, then PR people should have the time to make sure it is going to the right person at the appropriate outlet.

Jim

Hey man - three words - GET OVER YOURSELF

Ryan

Dan,

With all due respect, I think you would be better off using the money you pay for lists, etc. and build a really good web page that attract buyers. Spend money on google ads and other forms of web advertising. Maybe even a blog where you can showcase your talent and work on a regular basis, blogs usually do well in search engines.

As Chris pointed out, those companies cannot always be trusted. They try to build as big a list as possible to make it look attractive.

I can undertand you are busy, and when starting your own business that jumpstart is key, but you need to be a little more patient. Market to those individuals who have given YOU permission to market to them. Build relationships, force repeat business, get some word of mouth, etc.

The blogosphere continues to change things and it really serves as a good police officer for bad marketing practices.

Ajax

can't believe you actually wasted your time ranting about that....everyone gets email, junk mail, spam, etc... i agree with jim - get over yourself, you just sound like an ass.

Wired Ad reps

I do PR AND advertising buys and I can't get your Ad reps at WIRED to stop spamming me in the same exact manner! I am not going to publish a list of your reps as it is just part of doing business. Your blog IS warranted. Publishing these names IS NOT warranted. As a warning why not just publish the domain portion so they can get their act in order. Be part of the solution....not the problem

Thursday

I recognized a few of those email addresses from my days of working at a college newspaper. Myself and another staffer tried to unsubscribe our paper at various points from some of these lists. No matter how many unsubscribe buttons we hit, we couldn't stop the emails.
In one case, we were told that the emails were requested by the editor-in-chief, so they'd keep coming until that specific person unsubscribed. Further investigation discovered that the EIC in question had graduated six years ago.

PR firms need to put some thought behind their email campaigns, and since they effectively spam people (and often provide their email lists to other people and companies) I think that publishing their emails is an effective comment on their technique.

Alex

Wow- not a good idea to mess with pr people.

You forget that your supposed to actually work together rather than being apart of the problem. Not a good look for journalists or Wired Magazine. By using your power as a blogger your not only ranting to a community but to the entire internet and ruining the reputation of the people on that list.

I used to respect you and the magazine but now see that if you can be that vindictive then the rest of the editorial staff can't be much better to work with.

Kevin Kelly

I used to be in Chris' position at Wired, but I left over ten years ago. I am still getting PR spam from people trying to get Wired's attention. I don't have time to unsubscribe from each one, so like Chris, all email from the sender is automatically junked. (I also get lots of paper junk mail at my home from some of the same group!). Chris and I are not the only editors who do this, so in the long run the general effectiveness of spamming editors can not be worth the hassles of getting banned. One possible reason Dan Bannister find success in spamming editors is that his list must include many smaller mags who simply don't get as much attention. Everyone in the world aims their spam guns at Wired and the volley is deafening.

I encourage you to keep posting the culprits, Chris. And, yes, you should also check your ad reps to see what kind of spam they are hurling. That does weaken your high ground.

Also, have you ever noticed that an awful lot of PR folks are called Kristin, or a derivative? There's four on your list alone.

Susan Bratton

Chris,
This is mean-spirited. It's part of your job as the leader of the organization to forward emails appropriately or delete them or come up with a reasonable way for PR folks to connect with the right person on your editorial team.
Currently, you only list the addresses of your ad sales staff under Contact Info.
It's apalling that you would list people's addresses on your blog.
Susan

Leesa Barnes

Way to go Chris! I agree with you posting their email addresses. And you know the worst part? These PR folks won't even care because they'll continue to spam you. That's the saddest part. They won't read your blog post, they won't change and you'll continue to get the emails, albeit in your spam folder now.

I don't get nearly enough PR spam as you do, but I've had my share. I know when PR folks have lost their mind when they spam me with a press release that has my name in it. For example, the week before I went to a conference in California back in the Fall, I was getting a slew of announcements from people and companies all announcing the launch of something at the conference. It was constant - up to 10 emails per day from various PR firms for about a week.

What was funny is that the PR firm that represented one of the companies I would be working with at this conference spammed me announcing that "Author Leesa Barnes is moderating a panel." Geez Louise, do these people even know who they're sending emails to? Why send a press release to the very person who is mentioned in the release? Oh...right...it's PR spam, so they don't fracking care.

Can they be anymore clueless?

Kevin Dugan

For those folks that think Chris is being childish, I can tell you the problem is JUST. THAT. BAD...it makes people do crazy things.

I'm in PR and I'm tired of holding my tongue as my industry takes a hit because of many of the folks on the above list -- folks that have sent me "news spam" as well.

Chris is not the first person to do this and he will not be the last.

Josh Morgan

Transparency is a double edged sword. I work in PR and as an industry are constantly calling for more transparency.

We asked for it, we got it.

To be effective, build relationships, not lists.

Thank you Chris.

A bystander

"....or come up with a reasonable way for PR folks to connect with the right person on your editorial team."

As someone who has had to figure out where to send a press release in recent months, this really is not easy. You'd be amazed how many publications have NO editorial contact info at all posted on their websites. How are we supposed to direct the information to the correct contact if you make it so hard to find?

Not every publication is like this, of course. Some have a handy list of staff and the beats the cover, with e-mail addresses and/or a contact form. There might be fewer misdirected press releases if all media sites did this.

Justin Kownacki

Posting the email addresses of the people who spam you is somehow ruining their reputation?

What reputation?

If your reputation as a successful PR entity relies upon covert spamming, you obviously need to rethink your business plan.

BillTheEditor

I'm the editor of a very small (compared to Wired) e-zine. I have the same problem Chris does with junk from PR firms. This has led me to a pair of policies. First, any email from a PR person goes straight to the bit bucket. We don't publish press releases, "white papers," or anything else not written by a professional in our industry. This is clearly stated in our Author Guidelines. The latter is the second policy -- we don't accept queries from PR firms or reps. I'm sure there are PR folk in the world who actually do good work and send appropriate queries. Unfortunately, they seem to be one in a million, and I don't have enough hours in my day to read the other 999,999 emails.

My list of blocked PR folk looks amazingly like Chris' and our pubs are nothing alike. Bravo, fellow editor! Make these folks take a dose of their own medicine.

Joe Menn

As a tech writer at the LA Times, I find that a personalized pitch is far more effective than mere spam.
My all-time favorite began:
"Dear Mr. Times, how are things at Joseph Menn?"

SOgundiran

Thanks Kevin! I need to tout your blog here http://badpitch.blogspot.com/ because I have to say as a PR professional, the content on this blog has been invaluable to my learning/growth and helping to keep me off lists like mentioned above.

shaker

I think Chris brings up an excellent point. As a PR professional, i recognize that it's critical to maintain equity in the journalist world and that this is too often lost to poorly written emails directed at entirely wrong targets. Chris' response, HOWEVER, is unfortunate. I know it's tempting and easy to lump PR hacks into a single, dehumanized group operating under a misguided, or lost set of principles, but that's wrong. Most of these people are working professionals, often doing what their superiors are asking of them, and using lists not built by them, but provided >to< them. By putting them on the list you damage their reputation and, dare i say, potentially subject them to censure from their employers, or worse(i've seen a few lost jobs in my career over similar revelations). Even though it may seem like spam, unlike the emails offering "XXX Enlarged P@N#IS" there are often individuals on the other end of each of these w/homes and sometimes families to look after. I know it's convenient when ranting to remove the human element, but that doesn't make it right.

On another note, here's a shot at the TIRED trope tossed out by most journalists. We can all say it in unison: "just put it in an email and i'll get back to you if i'm interested." That works, if you actually read them. There have been hundereds of emails that i've sent over the years that have been well-written, based on hard research, and reflecting an understanding of the journalist's beat, the reading of his/her articles and w/sensitivity to specific journalist/publication deadlines, etc." Despite this, when i call 90%+ of the time, the response the journalist gives me is, "oh when did you send it? what did it say? what was it about?" Just goes to show you that when we do take the extra time to play by your rules, you disrupt the unsaid agreement by not even giving the emails enough of a read to know what they're about and whether the idea offered is of interest. I know there are only so many hours in the day and you get so many emails, but seriously, a simple email reply "no thanks" could save you hours of fielding "follow-up" calls in the long run.

Jay

mcraig@ringling.edu is on the list?

Dude's in clown college - gotta respect that.

BTW, Chris, some of us PR folk receive misdirected, unsolicited emails *from* Wired. Just a thought.

Eric Savitz

Bravo, Chris. Let me just say, as someone who is pitched morning, noon and night: the problem is not getting pitched; journalists are happy to get pitched. The problem is random, wildly inappropriate pitches. Thing of it like advertising: highly targeted ads work, spam rarely does and instead simply generates aggravation. Targeted pitches take more time, agreed; they require some research to find the appropriate targets; but spamming reporters and editors by the 1000s is the lazy PR person's strategy.

Barry Ritholtz

Frickin' hysterical!

You are inspiring me to do the same...

W.B. McNamara

awk -F "@" '{print $2}' < emaillist.tmp | sort | uniq -c | sort -rn

The results aren't as interesting as I'd hoped...frequency of appearing on the list does more-or-less seem to map to the size of the PR agency (though I hadn't heard of TECHMarket before):

6 5wpr.com
5 webershandwick.com
4 techmarket.com
4 sspr.com

Edelman, for all the abuse they've taken over the last year or so, managed to keep it down to three blocked addresses. Good for them, I guess...

Fraser

Perfect timing Chris! Alex Iskold just wrote today on how start-ups can get and keep the media attention. You can read the post here:

http://blog.adaptiveblue.com/?p=689

I can assure you that nowhere in his post did it say buy email lists and spam :)

Mark Harrison

I can sympathise with the sentiment... but...

It's well known among IT security folk that forging a sender's email address is vanishingly easy.

Does your "banning on first abuse" include a validation that the email was REALLY sent by the apparent sender?

If not, please hold for five minutes where, through the magic that is the Internet, all our competitors will be mysteriously sending you press releases :-o

Hell, if I'm thinking it, as an IT Geek, you can be sure that some PR weasel is cooking up such a stunt as we speak :-)

Tom H.

@Susan Bratton: Chris works for Wired, not you. It's not his job to make sure your e-mail gets to the correct person. The fact that you might even believe the opposite to be true enforces the sad stereotype of a bad PR agent that Chris is describing.

laura williams

Not really sure why everyone is huffed up at publishing a list of email addresses. Everyone who has put a news release on a wire service has had their address harvested, right? Any spokesperson with an email address is no stranger to spam. We should challenge ourselves to look past the virtual foot-stomping here and hear his message: Mass email doesn't work. You must do better.

Andrew Graham

I'll give a hundred bucks to the first person who can convince me there's ever a reason to send a news release to the editor in chief of Wired.

While I support the public shame being thrown up here -- I'm a PR practitioner and know that sending a release to an untargeted list is a no-no -- I don't think it's equitable to sic spam bots on the offenders. The majority of public-relations pros called out here didn't get Chris's name off of the Wired web site, but from a list provider like Cision or Media Map. (Had they collected it from the site, one would think they would have gone ahead and read some copy and learned who covers the beat they were pitching.) I know lots of practitioners have their own thoughts about these providers, the specifics of which I won't bore The Long Tail's readers with.

But here, using an "address (at) domain (dot) com" format would be better, assuming spammers don't collect and reformat those yet.

Josh Morgan wrote it best (above): "Build relationships, not lists."

-AG

Stefan Constantinescu

Tell me about it! I run a blog that just finally broke the million hits per month barrier and my work inbox is essentially PR and PR and PR. I simply set a filter to move emails with the word "announcing" to a special folder.

Any tips you care to share?

Miles

It's nice to know that some of the folks on the blacklist are just complete morons instead of intentionally bad actors. I especially liked the post about buying your email address shouldn't get a blacklist mark. He'll now get a ton of spam from bought lists, and he can do a simple unsubscribe from each and every email that he gets from now on.

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Tidbits

The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

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